London adventures: Borough Market, Wright Brothers, and the Whisky Exchange

Borough market, London’s oldest market, is located near the London Bridge (that tourists like me often confuse with Tower Bridge, but that’s a different story). It is a covered market packed full of seasonal fruit and vegetables, cheese, meats (including game), fish, and hordes of hungry tourists on a Saturday afternoon. I walked around the stalls for a little while; people where lined up for prepared foods and it was easy to get overwhelmed with all the different options. It might be best to come back early in the morning for a more relaxing experience. In the end, I opted to flee the crowds and walked a few steps to Wright Brothers for a late lunch.

Wright Brothers is a seafood restaurant located near the market. I took a seat at the counter and decided to pass on the oysters this time, and instead started the meal with a plate of devilled whitebait with tartare sauce. Whitebait is one of these Proust madeleines for me; I used to have it all the time when I grew up in France, but it’s not something I see very often in the US, and I had not had it in ages. The plate was generous, and it was a delicious treat to eat these crisp little fish with a wedge of lemon, accompanied by a glass of Yakima red ale on draft. Yakima is brewed by Meantime, a local brewing company located in Greenwich, using five hop varieties from the Yakima valley in Washington state.  The beer was moderately hoppy with a good malt to bitterness balance. It was light and perfect to start my lunch.

London day 2

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Marmalade skies

The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday, Preserves, could not have arrived at a better time. A few weeks ago, armed with a good knife, a very large pot, and a lot of patience, I made a traditional British marmalade.

It’s been a few years now that I’ve been trying to track down the elusive Seville oranges. They are not commonly found in stores and have a short season. So I was quite excited when I saw them appear at Specialty Produce, my local source for produce. Bumpy, thick-skinned and full of seeds, with an intensely bitter juice, they are not the friendliest of fruit. But under the right conditions, they can become sublime.
Seville oranges

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Suzanne Goin’s Grilled Duck Breasts with Roasted Grapes

This past Saturday I had the pleasure to chat with the always busy Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin at the Little Mercato, the farmers’ market in Little Italy.  Suzanne somehow manages to balance her life as the mother of three young kids, plus her at least as demanding other kids, her restaurants Lucques, A.O.C., the Hungry Cat (with her husband David Lentz), the Tavern, and the Larder. We chatted about her book, the A.O.C. Cookbook. While I haven’t had a chance to start cooking my way through A.O.C., I have had many delicious meals at the restaurant and cannot wait to dig into the book. The small-plate concept is especially appealing and will no doubt provide inspiration for my next cocktail parties.

Grilled duck breasts with crème fraîche and roasted grapes

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Rustic fruit tarts

Last weekend I was looking for an easy dessert that I could bring to a picnic. When I realized that I had a lot of fruit from my CSA, I decided to make a tart. Usually I go for a classic French presentation where I use a tart pan and carefully arrange uniform fruit slices. It is pretty for sure, but it’s also time-consuming and difficult when using fruit of various sizes together.

One of my usual tarte aux pommes (apple tart)
Apple tart, apples from Julian

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More chilled soups

Picture yourself – it’s already late at night and you had some snacks, maybe some charcuterie or cheese with your cocktails, but you still haven’t made anything for dinner. You don’t feel like turning on the oven (it’s the middle of summer) and are looking for something simple and nutritious.

Chilled summer soups are great for the occasion. Here are a couple more ideas. One is this very straightforward cucumber sorrel gazpacho based on a recipe by Russ Parsons in How to Pick a Peach. The book is a fairly complete list of fruit and vegetable grouped by season that provides an overview for each together with recommendations about storage, preparation, and a few simple recipes. I find that it’s a good starting point and I use it quite a bit to figure out ways to use the sometimes not-so-familiar vegetables in my CSA.

SorrelCucumber sorrel gazpachoCucumber sorrel gazpachoCucumber sorrel gazpacho

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Southern Exposure

When I received a bunch of really fresh celery in my farmers’ market bag yesterday, I immediately knew what I wanted to make. I am not usually a fan of celery – tough, bitter and stringy are the first words that come to mind. But fresh celery is a different matter; it has a fresh green fennel taste and I could see the potential for a nice cocktail. Dave Stolte at Home Bar Basics had published the recipe for the Southern Exposure, a creation by Daniel Hyatt at San Francisco’s Alembic, and I was eager to try it. It is a riff on the Southside that uses celery juice.

Southern Exposure
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Boozy ice cream

It’s great to make ice cream at home, but unless you have professional equipment or a tank of liquid nitrogen on hand, the consistency is usually on the hard side. One easy way to remedy this is to add booze to your ice cream. Some recipes recommend adding a small amount of neutral-tasting vodka. For fruit-based recipes, macerating fruit in kirsch is an excellent solution as it enhances the taste of the fruit, similar to what you would do for a fruit salad. By why not make the booze front and center?

Years ago I started using the Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. Their ice cream base #1 is as simple as it gets, requiring no cooking whatsoever, and just four ingredients: eggs, sugar, heavy cream, and milk. The book contains a variation with kahlua and amaretto, but that never particularly appealed to me. However I had this idea to make a Calvados ice cream – why not, good Calvados is delicious, like apples in liquor form. The only difficult part is to accept the idea to part with 1/2 cup (4 oz, 110 mL) of Calvados which equates to a non negligible 16% of an entire bottle… But it’s worth it and the ice cream keeps for a while (in theory – it will be gone before you know it). You can use it on a pound cake as pictured below, or even better on an apple tart. The cream smoothes the Calvados and the fat in the ice cream allows to better enjoy the aromatics (at least that is what I tell myself after a couple of generous scoops).

Homemade calvados ice cream, orange pound cake
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A couple of quick summer soups

In summer I enjoy cold soups. One that I make regularly is Suvir Saran’s chilled yogurt soup with cucumber and mint from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I love this soup because it is ready in 5 minutes in the blender and does not require any cooking. You start with a large pinch or two of cumin seeds that you roast for a couple of minutes in a pan then grind; I use a little coffee grinder dedicated for spices. Then you blend 2 cups of yogurt (I like to use the Greek yogurt from Trader Joe’s because it is quite thick), one large cucumber (cut in chunks with the skin on), a green chili (serrano or jalapeño – I use a little bit of jalapeño Tabasco, or BDW serrano cocktail spice that a friend makes locally, if I don’t have fresh green chilies), a large pinch of garam masala, the leaves from a bunch of fresh mint, salt & pepper. You just blend everything until the mint and cucumber skin are reduced to small green flecks. Garnish the soup with a dusting of cumin and a mint leaf. It’s really nice and fresh for the summer; it reminds me a little of cucumber raita in soup form.

Another good summer soup is this watermelon and cucumber gazpacho that I made last night. It was equal parts watermelon and cucumber, blended (it helps to start with the cucumber first as it is thicker) with plenty of lime juice (I used two limes for 1 cucumber and half a small seedless watermelon), the leaves from 2-3 mint sprigs, salt & black pepper. Garnish with finely diced watermelon and feta cheese, plus a small drizzle of good olive oil. Seasoning is key (otherwise the soup just tastes like a fruit smoothie!) – be generous with the salt & pepper and the flavors will pop.

Watermelon and cucumber gazpacho
Watermelon and cucumber gazpacho

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Give me a wink and I’ll give you what I think you’re after

I just received my copy of Tony Conigliaro’s Cocktail Lab, the American edition of Drinks that just came out a few days ago. Tony Conigliaro’s bars, 69 Colebrooke Row in London and le Coq in Paris, are known for their avant-garde approach to cocktails, many of them developed in a laboratory setting. The book contains a wide array of drinks, from twists on classics to more complex recipes, some involving homemade distillates requiring laboratory equipment. Just flipping through the book, it was interesting to see that his sources of inspiration for new drinks even included perfumes. It is the kind of book that is not just a collection of recipes but also a stepping stone for new creations. It is great that he is sharing his creative process with us.

The Wink: gin, Cointreau, simple syrup, Peychaud's bitters, pastis, orange peel
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